Tuned In

Idol Watch: All Over But the Singing?

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Miley Cyrus performs on the final-11 elimination night of American Idol. / FOX

Spoilers for last night’s American Idol elimination after the jump:

So Paige is going home. 100% unsurprising, not much to say; she’s been shaky for weeks and had the worst performance Tuesday night.

Thus begins the long dull middle section of American Idol, in which a number of people we already know have no shot at winning are eliminated in some order, and I struggle to find things to say about it.

Like this: Is there a scenario under which Crystal Bowersox loses this season?

Yesterday, Mrs. Tuned In forwarded me the dialidol.com predictions for last night, which were, basically, Crystal #1, everyone else in a ten-way tie for last. I tweeted the link, with a comment suggesting that the season may already be over. Alan Sepinwall reminded me that he remembered when it looked much the same way for David Archuleta.

He’s right, of course, that you can’t call it for Crystal yet. Some Idol seasons have been runaways, like Taylor Hicks and Fantasia Barrino. Other years, early favorites have faded or been nosed out at the end: Justin Guarini, Archuleta, Clay Aiken. Was Adam Lambert one of those? Maybe—but a look at his dialidol vote rating suggests that all the hype ignored the fact that he was never running away with it.

(Retrospective memory leads us to recall that Jennifer Hudson was upset in Fantasia’s year. She wasn’t—she was voted off too early, and arguably was the most talented, but in the voting she had never been a favorite to win. Likewise Chris Daughtry: you may think he was robbed, but he was never looking, in the voting and predictions, like he had an early lock.)

But in most of those cases, the favorite who lost had a clear rival or rivals: Clay and Ruben, Justin and Kelly, Archuleta and Cook. My problem right now is that not that I can’t imagine Crystal losing—it’s that I can’t, so far, see her opposition winning. Michael Lynche, maybe. Beyond that, even if we’re overestimating Crystal’s appeal (someone made the argument to me that diallidol is less accurate now, because of texting among young voters) I don’t see any clear second-place challenger. Put another way, it’s easier for me to imagine Crystal going home, say, fourth—Daughtry-style—than it is to imagine her losing to any of her current competition one-on-one in a finale.

The likeliest Crystal-loses scenario is that she slips up, has a bad week and gets voted off. Except for the save. Yes, the judges’ save, that deplorable mechanism, was practically invented as a break-in-case-of-Bowersox-elimination device, thus robbing this season of another possible source of suspense.

Two months is a long time, of course. It’s possible America just may get bored of Crystal, or that she’ll fade over the stretch. It’s possible that she appeals more to old people like me, who don’t actually vote on American Idol. But then someone else needs to show some yet-unseen potential, or we are in for quite a slog.

So I put it to you: state your best scenario for a Crystal Bowersox upset this season. Don’t be shy! Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose!